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Stewardship and Trusteesh
  By A.J. Philip  
  I ACCOMPANIED Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to South Africa on the occasi  
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  DEVOTIONAL  
 
   
Letter to Metropolitan
  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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  COUNSELING
 
Back to infancy -- they n
 
  By Shaheen Chander  
  ENJOYING a relaxed weekend, I was checking updates on the Facebook page. I came across a b  
     
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  THOUGHT  
     
 
   
Dirty education!
  By Ashish Alexander  
  A LITTLE distance from the new house we have recently shifted to is a slum. Our house is in Mohali and the slum technically belongs to the union territory of Chandigarh, the quintessential modern city that was supposed to be "unfettered by past" especially the filth that past has accumulated over centuries. While I drove with my wife this morning past that slum, euphemistically called a "village", we wondered what happened to the residents in the monsoons, for some houses were actually built over the sewers while a channel of dirty water flowed below them. And as we were trying to clear the scenes of that obscenity from our minds, I caught sight of two little girl students of a local school relieving themselves in the open. They were in their uniform so they couldn't have been two urchins who were never taught the rules of propriety and the need of hygiene. Their classmates played close by and some of them would have taken a "bathroom break" sooner or later. Yes, it was a school.

A naïve question. Is one allowed to run a school without a bathroom? Schools are being run without libraries. Schools are being run without classrooms, furniture, blackboards. Schools are being run without teachers. Who gives a damn about bathrooms when schools are being run without conscience? The conscience of a nation is dead when two little school-going girls have no option but to sit on a garbage heap close to their playground to pee. The conscience of a nation is dead when the poor are deceived with empty rhetoric of Right to Education. The conscience of a nation is surely dead when, quite literally, the filthy rich businessmen begin running the education show, and that too with only one aim -- to find ways to fish for another rich man's fortune through the fishing rod of his child with a bait of "world-class" education.

This is not a one-off incident. Today itself I found two reports in the city edition of The Tribune about abysmal conditions in our schools. One is about a school in another "village" around the city of Chandigarh, where 200 students share one toilet and about four are locked for the use of teachers. Another one is a story about a school in Fatehgarh Sahib where fire-fighting equipments are thought to be as useless as bathrooms in our neighbouring "village". (Courtesy: Iamplural.blogspot.com)
 
   
   
Dance of democracy
  By M. Thomas Mathew  
  WHERE are we going? Streets are turning into war zones, vehicles are burnt and government offices looted and files burnt. Nobody is shy of claiming that all this is done to serve the people.

In a democratic system, the ruling party and the Opposition have the same status and responsibility. Those who are in power are the ones the people have chosen on the basis of what they propose to do to improve the lot of the common people.

The Opposition points out the failures of the ruling party in this task and suggests an alternative programme for the welfare of the people. If the people approve of their programme, they will entrust them with the task of governance. No political party can escape the responsibility of convincing the people about the programmes it intends to pursue.

However, political parties have forgotten that politics has this kind of a component. Instead, all that they think and do are how to attain power and create such hindrances for the rulers that they are forced to quit?

It's the fundamental right of the political worker to disrupt people's life. Political activity consists of putting to the torch things the government has acquired with the taxpayers' money. The legal protection given to the legislators to criticize fearlessly the government's policies and tell the truth is considered a right to spread scandals and rumours about the family members of their rivals. This is how democracy has been progressing in the country. Where will all this lead us to?

Like husband, like wife. This is how ministers and their minions function. Ministers are unashamed of claiming that they have a right to interfere in the working of any institution that receives grant from the government.

To facilitate such interference, the ministers' secretaries and even peons are appointed chairmen of cultural institutions. Nowhere else in the world has this shameless, degenerate practice been resorted to. Kerala which, is culturally and educationally rich, had to set this ignoble trend.

The way things move, nobody's word can be trusted. Those who enjoy a measure of public trust are moving away from public life. Politics was once defined as the last resort of the scoundrel. Politicians seem to be desperately trying to prove that the saying is indeed correct.

In Parliament House, which is the supreme seat of Indian democracy, the portrait of a person who was Accused No. 7 in the Mahatma Gandhi assassination case has been unveiled.

If, in the near future, the portrait of the Accused No. 1 in the same case is unveiled in the same Parliament House, it will not be a surprise. We can wish that the Indian President will have the opportunity to unveil his portrait too! Let the President also have the luck to read out a speech prepared by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and let the people have the fortune to hear such a speech! Let Indians burn with patriotism!

The Central and state leaders are all bent upon not leaving even a little wick of light un-extinguished. The great Indian democratic drama is about to start with the witches singing on the stage that all that is good is evil and all that is evil is good. Let us pay homage to all that is noble and good!
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M. Thomas Mathew is the recipient of this year's prestigious Asaan Award instituted by the Kerala Government. The article, translated by A.J. Philip from the original in Malayalam, is excerpted from his book of essays 'Ninavukal, Niroopanangal' (Jeevan Books, Bharananganam 686 578, Pages 104, Rs 45)
 
   
   
Confused calendar
  By Balvinder Singh  
  "Most modern calendars mar the sweet simplicity of our lives by reminding us that each day that passes is the anniversary of some perfectly uninteresting event": Oscar Wilde

NOT so surprisingly, within a few years of its adoption, in 2003, the controversial Nanak Shahi Sikh calendar once again is in the news.

"Following a prolonged and intense debate among the five Sikh high priests, Akal Takhat Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh has given directions for a review of the Nanak Shahi calendar for possible amendments", says a news report.

The raking up of an avoidable calendar controversy, once again, appears to be a futile waste of time and energy. For, there are a lot of other serious issues before the Sikh leaders, like that of an unfortunate rise in the number of sub sects of Sikhism and a sharp rise in ritualistic practices that go against the basic tenets of Sikhism, that currently are plaguing Sikhism and need immediate attention.

The mere naming of Nanak Shahi calendar, in fact, appears to be a misnomer. Is Guru Nanak's saying "tith war na jogi janey rut mah na koyey, ja karta sirthi ko sajey aapey janey soye" (a yogi does not care for date or day or month or season, it is for Him, the creator of the universe, to remember all this), is only there to be 'sung' everyday as a ritual?

If all of us, including the SGPC, cannot do away with Gregorian calendar, which is the de facto international standard, and is used almost everywhere in the world for civil purposes, heavens perhaps won't be falling if one would be celebrating various Gurpurbs on agreed upon fixed dates of this very calendar.

It is common knowledge that irrespective of the dates provided by the SGPC, following this or that calendar, to celebrate various Gurpurbs they have never been strictly followed by the Sikhs staying in other countries. For, they celebrate them on the nearest weekend as per their convenience. And that never ever has lowered in any way their respect or enthusiasm for the same.

H. G. Well's old saying, "We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery", still being relevant needs to be pondered rather religiously!
 
   
   
Festival of lights
  By Sunil Mishra  
  DEEPAVALI, a HIndu festival, is a celebration that integrates spiritual, philosophical, religious and cultural aspects of human life.

The spiritual aspect is based on the basic human instincts of joy and happiness.

The philosophical aspect is based on the basic principle of the victory of good over evil in the constant struggle between them. The victory of good is to be celebrated. This is to remind ourselves and future generations that in the constant fight between good and evil, the good shall win.

The religious aspect deals with the particular rituals of that festival. The mythological stories that are related to the particular manifestation of God (Supreme Being) provide the religious strength for the festival.

The cultural aspect deals with the customs, activities, food, dress, social interaction with family and friends etc.

In the words of Sriranga Sadguru, a yogi-seer, "The planetary positions are favorable to spiritual development on these festivals and one should make use of these special timings".

The festival comes in October-November. Deepavali means "Row of Lamps". The festival is celebrated on the New moon day, that is a day of darkness. Several stories are associated with this festival.

The major story is that of Lord Krishna killing the demon Narakasura. Also, "Naraka" means "Hell". The demon Narakasura had kept several good kings, citizens including thousands of women in dark prison. It was the helpless cry of these innocent people as prisoners that brought the Supreme Being in the manifestation of Lord Krishna to kill (through His Sudarshana chakra) the demon Narakasura and free the prisoners.

Thus Deepavali is to celebrate the glory of Lord Krishna (Supreme Light) and the end of tyranny (darkness. The lighting of lamps spiritually signify removal of one's darkness. The day of Deepavali begins with special bath with oil, wearing new dress, ritual of worship, special foods and in the night lighting the lamps and firing crackers to celebrate through the sounds of joy. The family and friends meet on this day to wish greetings and celebrate together.

Also, on Deepavali day the merchants observe the beginning of new yearly accounting. This signifies the review of the accounting both in their business and also in life. The revision of accounting signifies the "forget and forgive" principle and restarting our joyful relationship with family and friends. Goddess Lakshmi represents wealth, both materialistic and spiritual. On Deepavali, worship of Goddess Lakshmi is also carried out for Her blessings on restarting our worldly and spiritual accounting.

Also, on the next day to Deepavali as part of the festival, the King Bali is also worshipped. The King Bali gave his entire kingdom and surrendered himself by requesting the Lord Vishnu (as Vamana) to place His (Lord's) foot on his (King Bali's) head. In some places, Rama's return to Ayodhya after killing demon Ravana is celebrated

Thus we see that Deepavali encompasses all domains of human life namely physical, emotional, philosophical and spiritual. The celebration includes both the individual and societal levels. Thus the Hindu festivals provide enlightenment, education and joy at the most basic levels of human experience.
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The writer is Chairman, Board of Studies in Journalism, RTM, Nagpur
 
   
   
Love God, not fear Him
  By Balvinder Singh  
  "I AM a God-fearing person". Earlier, like many others, I too used to despise this commonly used phrase. And the questions that one would ask in this regard are equally common: Why God fearing? Why not God loving?

However, a closer look at various religious beliefs often leads one to believe that all of them, perhaps, are the outcome of various fears that surround every human being.

Sadly a few considerations in regard to the welfare of humanity, like seeking "sarbat da bhala" (wellbeing of one and all) during the daily Sikh prayer, that almost all religions preach are scarcely put into practice.

No wonder most of the religious rituals are performed by individuals to allay their fears alone; the fear of losing this or that.

The following oft-repeated joke explains this concept rather clearly.

A poor farmer was returning home from his fields. On the way, he saw an astrologer, dressed and decked-up in his full professional mode, sitting under a tree.

Since even many of the so-called agonistics like me rarely miss to read the astrological columns in newspapers that fit every individual (sharing his finger-prints with no one) into 12 generalised categories, the farmer too sat to know his future.

After having a quick look at the farmer's hand, the astrologer predicted that he has an agonising future because of a bad positioning of the planet 'Shanni' (Saturn). How to come out of this future-trouble was a natural response of the farmer. "A 'pooja' (religious ritual) costing Rs 100 would make you 'dosh mukat' (fault free)", announced the astrologer.

"But I don't have that much money to spare for the ritual", told the farmer. Ultimately, the bargain-bait boiled down to a mere Rs 5.

"But I do not have even that much", announced the farmer while emptying his pocket inside out!
"Run away you rascal. Even the 'Shanni' cannot harm you if you have nothing to lose from your pocket", shouted an angry astrologer.

And he was very right. If one does not have the fear of losing anything, where lays the need for performing a ritual or say inventing a God!

Finally, another short anecdote to explain it a bit more clearly:

We have an almost abandoned ancestral house in a remote Punjab village. We rarely visit the property since we shifted to Chandigarh long ago.
Once we were told that one of our neighbours has erected a storeroom on our unprotected backyard. A few of our visits in this regard did not yield any positive result as the encroacher refused to pull down the structure and offered a very small amount as compensation. With no other option left we filed a case in the local court.

Recently, since nothing seemed to be coming out of that lingering legal battle, my old and ailing mother finally sought His help. She "promised" to have an 'Akhand Paath' (a Sikh religious ritual about whose history is unknown to me) at a particular popular Gurdwara (Sikh religious temple) on the outskirts of Chandigarh.

"But Ma, our prayers in this matter of land grab might not work in this case" I told my mother having a questioning look. "For, the Gurudwara where you intend to hold this ritual itself has been erected on public land grabbed by its Management Board unlawfully", I informed her quietly!

Of course, I have concocted this story but its every grain is true to its core. No wonder the Supreme Court of India has recently come down rather heavily on local administrations that allow the construction of religious places on public property illegally.

However, is it not surprising that people -- irrespective of their faith -- fail to realise that a religious place built on dishonest foundations cannot help them in attaining their sacred religious goals!

Unless devotees, the real funding patrons, dare to turn the tables against the unlawful encroachers, who feign as religious leaders, perhaps no court verdict can change the rotten scenario that seemingly has the polluted patronage of politicians and bureaucrats as well.
 
   
   
True apology
  By Jacob Varghese  
  HAVE you ever felt overwhelmed by conflicts in your life? When conflicts arise, do you run away, attack or try to make peace? While some struggles are natural and can even promote creativity and change, many of our disagreements result from selfish motives and behaviour. Turning conflict into glorifying God can transform the storm of conflict into grace-filled growth in Christ.

Throughout the Bible, we read of human conflicts. In Genesis, Cain kills Abel, Esau threatens Jacob and Joseph is nearly killed by his brothers. But we also read stories of reconciliation. Joseph's story is a classic example. It teaches us about resolving conflict and living together in harmony. This story is a reminder of one man who chose to pursue peace and honour God by reconciling with those (his brothers) that had wronged him.

We know of the conflicts we have gone through or are going through in life. Our own family may be in terrible mess because of something we did or someone else did. The anger and hate generated by these conflicts and hurts just keep surfacing along and we can't break through the pain barrier. How are we to achieve reconciliation in the face of such conflicts?

We know that we can't change what has happened yesterday. But we can learn from our mistakes, and with God's help we can use that knowledge to make a better tomorrow. That's what Mark (also called John) did. He went on a missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas, but when they entered Asia Minor, he abandoned them and returned home.

We're not told why he left, but the apostle Paul saw it as a shameful desertion. Later, Mark became a co-worker with Barnabas. At some point, Mark must have changed and reconciled with Paul. When Paul was in prison awaiting execution, he asked Timothy to come and to bring Mark with him. He indicated that Mark was "useful to me for the ministry". We cannot erase yesterday, but we can learn from it.

I heard the story of a man who, with tears in his eyes, said to his pastor, "I told my wife I was sorry, but she says she won't continue to live with me. Please talk to her and tell her that if God forgives, she should too." The pastor knew that this man had 'repented' several times before, only to revert to his abusive behaviour. So the pastor said, "No, I'm not going to tell her that. In your case, saying "I'm sorry is not enough." His wife insisted that he receive counselling and give evidence of a genuine change before returning home. She was right.

Just saying "I'm sorry" is not enough for God either. The leaders of Israel, in the face of trouble brought on by their sin, thought that merely returning to prescribed sacrificial offerings would solve their problems. But God rejected that kind of 'repentance'. God said, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings". He meant that repentance must result in a change of heart and a change in behaviour.

Perhaps we have said or heard others say, "If only I could forgive myself for what I have done!" Some people become obsessed with guilt of their past sins. But if we confess our sins, we can be assured that we have been forgiven. Oswald Chambers, speaking of the sadness of what might have been, said: "Never be afraid when God brings back the past. Let memory have its way. God will turn the 'might have been' into a wonderful source of nourishment and growth for the future." God does not want us to be imprisoned by yesterday, but to be free for today and tomorrow.

A meaningful apology can be the first step toward forgiveness. Author Barbara Engel says that a true apology depends on the three R's: regret, responsibility and remedy, which finally leads to reconciliation. As followers of Jesus, we are instructed to forgive others when they repent and are sorry. A heartfelt apology can't change the past, but it can brighten the future.

----

The writer is Director of Business & Finance, New Theological College, Dehradun, Uttarakhand.
 
   
   
Molly-wood matters
  By Balvinder Singh  
  "I would be launching my next film with "Mig Me" in its lead role", a visually shaken Karan Johar reportedly informed a puzzled film correspondent.

In fact, he was referring to 'Big Be' but could not muster the courage to pronounce the scary letter 'B' which he replaced with a much safer letter 'M'!

However, he did not have any 'numerological' fad for the letter 'M', like that of a leading lady of the TV soaps has had for the letter 'K'!

Karan's letter-mumble was the after-effect of his recent release titled "Wake up Sid" in which he 'dared' to refer Mumbai as the 'forbidden' Bombay!

Many flay him for his apology that he quickly and unconditionally tendered to the goons that the State has failed miserably to rein since long.

But can Karan Johar be blamed for this? Certainly not. Because Karan, a professional film maker, had been left no other choice.

Not so strangely, it is not Karan Johar alone but the whole 'Molly-wood' (it perhaps would be safer to call it like that as Bolly-wood would, perhaps, be the next target of the goons as it has its connotation with Bombay) that seems to have fallen on evil days.

It is not difficult to gauge the poisonous power of the unbridled Maharashtra goons that even those leading filmy commentators who air their seemingly vociferous views on almost every issue have gone into hibernation. And they are known to be the representatives of the so-called 'creative class'. Or should it also be called 'cattle class?'

For, the arty situation in the rest of India too is perhaps not much different. With a non-performing administration that often bans, rather whimsically, now this and now that on the one hand and a self-promoting creative fraternity that cannot dare to displease anyone whosoever matters; from goons of one kind to the goons of every other kind, on the other, what else one can expect?

For instance, when I initiated a single-handed campaign against the administration's high-handedness in dealing with the affairs of Chandigarh Museum, not even a single soul from the art fraternity or the media supported me. Small wonder that I ofen wonder at the 'raddi' papers that I have been collecting in response to my various enquiries through an allegedly effective tool called RTI.

Will the creative class, having the untapped power of a cattle herd, in our country ever be bold enough to take on the goons effectively? I at least am pessimist in this regard.
 
   
   
Price of Gandhi
  By A.J. Philip  
  MY grandfather was never known as a Gandhian. But at one point of time, he too was bitten by the freedom bug and bought a nice charkha, made of teak wood, and a pair of metallic spindles.

This would have been sufficient for him to claim a "tamrapatra" and the freedom fighter's pension as people with lesser claim to have participated in the freedom struggle had managed to get both.

It is a family story that my grandpa had once woven a piece of cloth with the thread he made with his charkha and presented it to my grandma, who made a 'chatta' (a loose blouse) out of it. I cannot vouchsafe the veracity of the story.

But one thing I know is that the charkha came in handy as a plaything during my childhood. That in the process it was destroyed irrecoverably is a different matter.

The next time I saw a charkha was when a mobile exhibition visited our village on the occasion of the 100th birth anniversary of Gandhiji. We saw many replicas of things the Father of the Nation had used.

The Favre-Leuba pocket watch, the round-rimmed spectacles he wore and a writing instrument were some among them, not to mention books like the Bible and Leo Tolstoy's 'The Kingdom of God Is Within You' that influenced his thinking.

I had occasions to visit the Gandhi museum in Delhi and the exact spot where Nathuram Godse shot him. A visit to the Gandhi museum in Ulaanbataar was a surprise of surprise during my visit to the Mongolian capital in the nineties.

And when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurated a Gandhi museum in a South African jail a few years ago, I was lucky to be there to report the event for The Tribune.

My interest in Gandhi and Gandhism got revived with the prospect of the granddaughter of a Gandhian, who set up the Gandhi Peace Foundation in Delhi, becoming our daughter-in-law.

Thus when on Saturday last, I saw an advertisement of Mont Blanc about the Mahatma Gandhi Limited Edition, I got interested and made a call to the company's dealer in Delhi. My intention was to buy a pen, though I have a few Mont Blanc pens, some gifts and some bought with my hard-earned money.

But when the dealer told me that the limited edition pen would cost Rs 14 lakh (later the company brought it down to Rs 11.39 lakh), it marked the end of my dream.

Since the company has manufactured only 241 pens to match the 241 miles that Gandhiji traversed during the Salt March, it would have been puerile to expect the price to be any lower than Rs 10 lakh. Of course, for the hoi polloi, it has brought out 3,000 fountain pens that cost Rs 1.7 lakh each and another 3,000 roller pens that cost Rs 1.5 lakh each.

That I cannot afford to buy any of these pens is not the fault of Mont Blanc. There are critics who blame Mont Blanc for commercially exploiting Gandhiji's name. If MF Husain decides to pay a tribute to Gandhiji, he can do so only by painting him. Similarly, the only way Mont Blanc can pay a tribute to Gandhiji is by producing this magnificent pen.

Incidentally, Mahatma Gandhi was a prolific writer. No Indian journalist can match him in terms of the volume of writing he produced. And he wrote mostly with his pen. Mahatma Gandhi was also not averse to enjoying the hospitality of the rich like Ghanshyam Das Birla. So what is wrong if Birla's granddaughter Shobhana Bharatiya is tempted to buy a Gandhi pen?

As for the hoi polloi, China will soon flood the markets with duplicates of the Gandhi pen. I have a limited edition Mont Blanc pen that a Mont Blanc dealer had difficulty in identifying as a fake. By the way, the German pen-maker paid Rs 72 lakh to the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation run by Gandhiji's great grandson. So, who exploits whom?
 
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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